Online Business Ideas

From the Starting an Online Business series...
Lynn Urback asks: Where does one even get an idea for an online business. It’s obvious to see all the benefits of working from home, extra income, etc.. but, where can one get help coming up with an idea?

Hi Lynn,

There are a variety of ways to make money online. There are hot markets and one-hit-wonders, and then there are stable long-term online business ideas. I prefer the latter, though it should be pointed out that both are options.

Online business ideas are a dime a dozen, and limited only by the creativity of the person coming up with the idea.

The cool thing about this whole "make money online" thing is that we are pioneers. This is a first gen opportunity, and collectively we are all paving the way for future generations.

Back in the 90's there were no molds. The initial Internet Marketers basically took offline business and marketing and looked at ways to do those same things on the internet. The first decade saw much testing and tweaking, and many online business ideas rise and fall.

Those of us who were online in 1996, 97 or 98 didnt search for a blueprint or model that we could follow to the letter. We jumped on board and tried things out, found things that worked, and then followed the market trends year after year from that point forward.

The industry has continued to change and evolve over the years. Along the way there have been a lot of opportunities to make money online. For example, eBay was really hot for awhile. I partnered up with a couple of Power Sellers during those years and we were selling $20k plus consistently every month in nickel & dime merchandise.

When PayPal first launched they offered a clean $10 referral fee for new account sign-ups. I made thousands during that short period. It used to be that you could clear an easy $10k/month using direct affiliate links on Google Adwords too - and a lot of us did that until it fizzled out (ie Google updated their policies & tightened their algorithms).

Just to make my point that there is no end to the ways you can make money online, but sometimes there's an end to the way.

When it comes to online business ideas though, you want to choose something that is not tied to a method or a current trend, but rather to a market or a topic that you can stick with long-term.

It seems there is some confusion between choosing a niche, working a specific strategy, and considering real online business ideas. So I thought the point was worth clarifying in detail.

A true online business idea:

  • won't be dependent on how you market it.
  • won't depend on anyone else's business model.
  • can stand the test of time.

A "niche" is not the same thing as an online business. Not the way it is generally described or taught, at least. But locating niches and creating profitable niche websites, and then outsourcing the management or selling them off - that's an online business idea.

Of course, choosing a niche that you feel passionate about to invest yourself in long-term could turn into a sweet online business.

Take a look around you at some of the sites you frequent, or some of the online business models that intrique you. Study websites or market leaders that are obviously successful. Look at them all collectively, and see if you can find any common characteristics.

Dont just jump on board at any promising method or idea that someone else passes along to you. Your online business idea needs to be something you'll really enjoy working on, and can get into. Take some time to consider what you have and what you know, how you feel, and most importantly: how you want to spend the majority of your time.

Your online business idea needs to be an idea you can turn into a career. And that's different from just "making money online".


Also See: Starting a Free Online Business

Starting A Home Business? Read this...

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About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Jim McDowell says:

    There are people out there that love the process so much it probably doesn't matter what they choose but for most of us the most important thing is finding something we are going to enjoy for a long time.
    Yet another great post Lynn - you have hit the nail on the head.

  2. Steve Tallamy says:

    Great advice Lynn, getting your head around the difference between just finding a niche and an Internet Business or any other type of business is a big stumbling block for most people.
    Most tutorials tell you to find a niche, build a website around it and watch the cash come flooding in - if only!
    Like any other business you need a business strategy, short, medium and long term.

  3. Great post ! Going to apply it to whatever niche I consider after I am done tweeking the first one.

  4. Lynn,

    Very good advice above. You are the real McCoy. See my website article, "You CAN cheat an honest man" for more. BTW, Hostgator
    is the best.

    "Charles of Buffalo Grove"

  5. I like how you see the big picture of Internet marketing, unlike so many so-called gurus. And I was shocked to be referred to as a "pioneer". I often feel like whatever ideas I come up with have already been done by someone else. Now I won't be so quick to dismiss my ideas

  6. Definitely dont be too quick to dismiss your ideas, Lexi! Of course, I should talk - I'm the ONLY internet marketing advisor on the web (ha - kidding, of course 😉 ).

    Sometimes competitive markets are the best place to be if you can find a good position to leverage all of that power...

    I have some interesting predictions about where all of this is headed, which I'll save for a future post... but I'm definitely watching with interest during this 2nd decade of online business.

  7. Eric Phillips says:

    I understand all of the talk around; picking a product or subject that you are interested in, creating products for that groups, etc, etc. But, aren't there some subjects that are more profitable than others? Is anyone making any "real" money on a subject other than how to get rich online? I'm very interested in working online, but have struggled finding my "niche" or product.

  8. Good question, Eric and YES - some niches are more profitable than others, and some are not profitable at all. Also YES to making money well outside the "internet marketing" space. See the link above, or you can click it here:

    I work in a wide variety of niches myself.

  9. Will Lowrey says:

    Great post! For years I avoided a niche that I really loved - Internet Marketing. I fought against the temptation to get into what everyone else was doing. However, as much as I tried doing other things - web design (which I still do), niche-for-money sites, etc - none of them were as fun as my work in Internet Marketing.

    I knew I had found the right place when I could spend an entire evening with friends and want to talk about my latest efforts in driving traffic, building links, or making money online. I am a big fan of the 'Find What You Love'.

    Copyblogger had a good post today about being creative in how you make money. It is like you said, Lynn - it changes as the times changes, but that is just the nature of the beast.

  10. I think we don't need to focus on making money online, you need to focus in doing something you love to do, understand the basics of how to make money of it, and the money will come. the best thing is that you enjoy doing it

  11. Jossef,

    Your comment is good advice for anyone wishing to learn as a hobby. If you are trying to make a business out of your efforts, you MUST first focus on deciding which markets you wish to be in and base that on whether money is being exchanged in those markets. Otherwise, you will only succeed in being number one in markets where there is no money to be made.

    Best Regards,

  12. There is no easy answer on the right online business model. Certainly there is no one right answer.

    Whatever business you want to start, important to make sure there is a market for it. Certainly there are lots of viable markets. Which one to go after depends, among others, on your target income and how much resources are you willing to commit. It is always a good idea to make sure your business can be scaled up (use leverage) easily.

  13. Neils2009 says:

    The online business model also changes over time.Right now,blogging for adsense is a good way to earn money online if you get good traffic.

  14. Reggie Barnett says:

    This is a great post because people that are successful with their own online businesses don't just make their business just for the money. Most of the time people find a niche they are passionate about and then find ways to make money off of it.

  15. Great! Thank you very much for the sharing. I have been thinking about starting an online business, but never came to a decision. Now, you helped me a lot to decide on one. Thanks again.


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